BEARSKIN LODGE PRESS

RESILIENCE – Coming April 2023

Les K. Wright recounts his journey as a contemporary gay Candide. From grassroots activist to a member of the “forgotten generation” of long-term AIDS survivors, he recounts his struggles in academia, and with alcoholism, all the while searching for love and self-knowledge.

Resilience offers a searing portrait of queer life in the latter half of the 20th century through the eyes of Les Wright, a pioneer of Bear history. Wright takes readers on a journey from the suffocating conformity of the 1950s in rural New York, through the radicalism of gay liberation and the trauma of AIDS, all the way to our ambiguous present. Written in an intimate and uncompromising style, Resilience unfolds the pleasures and pains of gay life and raises challenging questions about sex, suffering, and the failures of queer revolution.“

Tyler Bradway, Assoc. Prof. English, SUNY Cortland; co-editor of Queer Kinship: Race, Sex, Belonging, Form

“In his fascinating, often wrenching, roller-coaster-ride of a memoir, Les K. Wright takes us through his long-enduring search for love, acceptance, community, meaningful work, and a place to truly feel at home. Resilience reads like a history of a half-century of American gay life, condensed into one man’s very intimate story.”

Wayne Hoffman, author of An Older Man; and Hard

“In this memoir, Les Wright walks us through a life filled with challenges: a sexually abusive father, coming to terms with a condemned sexual identity, the horrors of the AIDS epidemic, and the pull of alcohol, among them. Resilience reminds us of the power of the human spirit to survive and thrive even under those most difficult conditions. As told in these pages, Les Wright’s life has the power to inspire and give hope.”

John D’Emilio, author of Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood: Coming of Age in the Sixties

“Les Wright’s important brokeback autobiography of “gay identity and human cruelty” exposes the toxic roots of the killer PTSD that depresses so many gay men into self-loathing, addiction, weight issues, unrequited affairs, abandonment, healthcare, unemployment, and suicidal thoughts. Resilience is a cautionary tale that – with all its joys and struggles – would make an amazing independent gay film. Like a Greek tragedy, everything the friend-seeking man touches goes so wrong that people shun him for fear of being jinxed by the curse of his bad luck.

“Wright’s poignant memoir of unhappy hours is a streaming cocktail of blood and bitters mixed by a recovering alcoholic, sex tourist, and soul-searching university professor. He is a survivor of his own bipolar depression – and of his sexcapades in New York, London, Berlin, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and the Valley of the Dolls.

“This daring confessional spills the tea about bad behavior in gayborhoods, and about gay-on-gay sabotage in politically-correct universities. Ranging across AIDS, pompous queer theory, and the Bear movement, Professor Wright teaches an authentic crash course in what gay folk don’t learn in school and need to learn to “know themselves.” Self-knowledge is his survivalist message. Slumming like the transgressive Charles Bukowski and naming names like Truman Capote, he takes no prisoners as he reveals who did what to whom in the shocking dark underbelly of gay life.

“I could not resist the truth and visions of his Dantean tour through sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. The analytical author hits high notes of insight as he narrates coming out from boyhood incest and rape to find and frame and free his gay-ghetto self in the wider human context of world history and the international pop culture of books, films, music, travel, and camp that gayfolk use to construct queer identity. Wright’s comedy of errors and eros is recommended for readers eager for outsider gay history told by an authentic eyewitness survivor and mentor.”

Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., founding San Francisco editor of Drummer magazine, author of Profiles in Gay Courage: Leatherfolk, Arts, and Ideas

“Les Wright’s style of writing is clear and concise, intimate, honest, and emotionally charged. His childhood was lonely and isolated, even in the midst of a large family from whom he felt alienated very early. Like many gay kids, Les became fascinated by secret codes and languages, thus German language and culture became a part of this secret intimacy and he lived in Germany for a number of years. This is a moving book that slices you open with its rare insights and naked truthfulness.

“Wright spares very little – he is at times very hard on himself, but never gives into self-pity. He deals with his own alcoholism, his struggles with drugs and HIV, his conflicts with people who label themselves “progressive,” but are basically cold and feckless, and his survival in the closed, cut-throat, and entitled back-ways of academia, that often coddle people from the upper middle classes, which he was not. The book is shockingly frank sexually, but even more important, it is emotionally unsparing, rare in gay books that often shy away from the most genuine, painful, and raw feelings. Les Wright does not, but embraces these feelings with extraordinary craft and skill.”

Perry Brass, author of A Real Life

“Les Wright’s life story confronts the reader with the painful fact that surviving AIDS is neither a happy end nor even an end. And in Wright’s case, as it is for so many gay men, it is not even the first survival. That began in a childhood in the 1950s where the flimsy American dream could be ruined like a family Polaroid exposed too soon. There’s another tentative survival in school where even the whiff of difference could be a kiss of death without the kiss. Wright’s salvation in German literature and Germany gleams like Oz although the witches are always waiting in the interstices of that real dream.

“Wright takes us with him through the thrills of sex and sexual politics, the majestic promises of culture and the intellect, which makes the horrors of AIDS all the more an obscene violation. Survival becomes an ethical calling, at times an art form, at times a retroactive rescue of the bullied kid, at times a call to a stricken community. Resilience is at once the perfect title of the book and a poignant understatement.”

Earl Jackson, author of Strategies of Deviance: Studies in Gay Male Representation

“In his memoir Resilience, Les K. Wright maps out the ways in which exclusion as a social practice – in one’s own family and personal relationships as well as in academic, gay, and even recovery communities – can work to wear us down and leave us stranded late in life, dispirited. In resonant prose, Wright documents one individual’s history of disconnection and disaffection, and relays to the reader how he has been able to resist the forces that isolate us and to re-engage with what makes his heart sing. As a long-term survivor on many counts, Wright has much to teach us about persistence in the pursuit of peace and kinship, and he does so carefully, lovingly, inclusively.”

Chael Needle, co-editor of Art & Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U

“Les Wright’s Resilience takes the reader on a Dante-esque journey from the backstreets of pre-HIV sex to the aeries of academia. Through the gay enclaves of Europe and the U.S., the story echoes [the memoirs] of Lars Eighner.”

Bo Young, Publisher/Ed. Dir., White Crane Journal; Founder, White Crane Inst.; author of First Touch

“What Les K. Wright has accomplished is much more than a personal memoir. It’s a story about the complexity of one’s life and of American life. He shows courage in revealing himself, sharing his perceptions of gay men following World War II. His life through the frightening HIV epidemic speaks to other survivors still grieving those years and to the young generation who know AIDS only as a historical fact. Wright writes in an open, simple, fluid style. This is perhaps the most detailed, deep story I have ever read.”

Walt Odets, gay psychologist and author of Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men’s Lives

AVAILABLE STARTING APRIL 12, 2023 from Amazon.com

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

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